Ayyappa Paniker

(12 September 1930 - 23 August 2006 / Kavalam, Kerala, India)

Sunflower Face - Poem by Ayyappa Paniker

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What grief is melting in your thoughtful eyes,
You with the face of the Sun? What song of sorrow
Is wafting in your tremulous lips? But perhaps
This song and grief are not yours, in fact—maybe,
I am passing on to you the fire in my chest, although
They suit you too so well—this lament of my boat
Crashing in the sea at your wharf—I did so sway
The billows that it might not enter your ears--
When a solar system stops its momentum on its own,
When the dry Ganga of the Milky Way burns up
Like a sandy channel and writhes for water,
O Sunflower Face, will you come and open your ears
Like a whirlwind that tears away the roots of my vowels
And consonants, which keep flowing like a mere song?
Till now I haven't drawn even a little painting for you,
Nor have I composed a simple light song for you--
And yet you have guarded the western gateway of kindness,
And guarded this sea-wharf, where my corpse is floating,
As well as the pain I have cherished like under-water fire

O Sunflower Face, words of curse are indeed on the tip
Of my tongue, sharp words seething with hellish torture,
I shall not sprinkle these singeing words on anybody's head,
Lest they should boomerang some day or other, and so
Thinking, I remain dumb even now, as always.

Look! These sea waves sometimes in the morning lie
Without motion, their vast expanse seems like a bed-sheet,
The folds will not move, they may beckon as if to tempt
Us to lie on them, hearing the call we may take a close look,
And if our eyes are O.K, in that stillness we shall learn
The thirst of the sea, the depth of the sea, the orgasmic spell
Of the sea, the cruelty of the sea, the hypnotic electric measure
Of the sea. The sea's measure is the glory of the strong goddess
Who saved the threefold powers that lay crying and crawling
In the primordial waters of primal energy at the time of Creation.
As we invoke and awaken that Sea-mother, giving her life,
Installing her figure drawn on the floor, as it were,
What is it that you whisper into my ears, strange!
That this is the truth, that this alone is truth, do you
Whisper into my ears? Touching my cheek, you
Pour into my ears this electric charm—the spell
Of the wounds of love and affection and sweetness,
That assumes a form and pulsates here on the floor.

Sunflower Face, I am not just drawing your picture
In colours--but merely trying to mark a figure
In my home courtyard with the fresh powder of
This lengthening moonlight, just for nothing at all--
Only trying to draw a new world, just like that--
Seeking colours, singing the colours. Accept this,
O Sunflower Face!

Surajmukhi, the top of your head, your forehead,
Your eyebrows, your eyelids that close and open
The temples of your eyeballs, letting out a glow,
Your eyelashes that bend down along with them,
Your cheeks, bulging underneath, full of blood,
Your nostrils that keep humming the scent of birds,
Your lips blossoming below, your teeth in between,
With a little sheen, O Sunflower Face, as I inhale
The magnificence of your face, I can hear
The petals of your opening flower bud,
The gentle smile that breaks into an awareness,
And the rays of light that radiate from it, far and wide.

Is it the early soft vernal season of the rustling bosoms
Is it the hard winter of the rubbing hands and palms
Or is it the summer when toes begin to tinkle:
Tell me, Surajmukhi, how do the pictures drawn by
Your Sun turn into such strange, unexpected visions?
The thoughts that arise from your honeyed navel—
The cryptic magic formulas, the aphorisms, axioms,
How do they become the enveloping black hole enclosed
Within the very structure of this overarching universe?
Is it the fertile autumnal splendour of your cool thighs
Or the arrival of rains recalled by the roots of your arms
Or the full spring that puts out tender shoots from head to foot
Or the cycle of six seasons, stirring the mind and the body alike?

Is it not so, when the figure is lit up by the sprinkling of powders
Of different colours, isn't it? Are they not the fulsome bosoms
Of motherhood, aren't they? Are they not the sacred weapons
Carried in her sixty-four hands, aren't they? Are they not the stars,
Inexhaustible in enumeration, taking the shape of truth in her breasts?
Are they not sprouts of adolescent hopes thrilled at every touch?
Are they not the desires arising from the flow of fresh fragrance?
Clearing the yard of loose sand, making a circle, smearing it
With cow dung, decking it up as holy ground, the hand of joy
Picks up the bowl of powders, and sprinkling them on the ground
Draws something, writes something; is it not the swing and sway
Of strings of waves blossoming among the stream of colors,
Isn't it? The bloody points of spears are aimed at some and
Whirr fast, and blow the conch, with vigour and straight upward,
Aren't they? Hearing it, unable to bear it, do they not seek shelter,
Don't they? There comes the Kolam, enlivened rage, there comes
An awakened world, a resurrected time, there comes, there comes
Interiorized in wrath, beaming forth a tender smile, singing of colours,
Wiping off the colours, entering the grove to put on grace,
There comes the Sunflower Face!


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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 7, 2012

Poem Edited: Friday, September 7, 2012


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